EXCLUSIVE: City giving ‘special protection’ to carting company by not pressing charges in hit-and-run death, lawyer says

Tragedy: Police survey the scene in Greenpoint where Neftaly Ramirez was hit and killed by a garbage truck driver on Saturday.
Photo by Mark Mellone

He’s crying cover up!

The city is protecting a private-carting company with a history of fatal accidents after its employee hit and killed a 27-year-old cyclist in Greenpoint last July while driving a massive garbage truck he was not licensed to operate, the lawyer representing the victim’s family told the Brooklyn Paper.

“The company has been involved in five separate fatalities in the past few years. It has a big contract with the city of New York — millions of dollars — and it seems it gets special protection from the city and police,” said Michael Kremins, an attorney with the Manhattan-based personal-injury firm Raskin and Kremins. “He did not have a valid license, and should not have been behind the wheel of that truck.”

District Attorney Eric Gonzalez let the driver — whom Kremins identified as 63-year-old Jose Nunez after law enforcement refused to release his name — off the hook on Jan. 9 because his prosecutors said they lacked enough evidence to arrest him after a police probe determined the man didn’t know he hit Neftaly Ramirez near Noble and Franklin streets while the cyclist was pedaling home from work on July 22.

Cops confirmed the motorist had a valid New York State license to drive a car, but not the kind needed to get behind the wheel of a commercial garbage truck, which led them to slap him with a summons.

But Gonzalez’s rep maintained prosecutors did not have enough evidence to charge the driver.

“There were no criminal charges that could have been brought in this case,” said Oren Yaniv.

Kremins isn’t giving the motorist or his employer the same special treatment he claimed they received from the city, however. The Ramirez family plans to file a civil suit against the allegedly well-connected, New Jersey-based Action Carting, he said, which will hopefully shed light on its years of negligence and force the business to shape up.

“What the family wants to do is change that attitude, so other citizens don’t have the same fate as Neftaly,” said the 35-year-plus lawyer. “Hopefully this lawsuit will be the catalyst that changes the conduct and behavior.”

Investigators claimed there’s no video of the actual collision, and Kremins didn’t see the camera footage cops have from before or after the crash, the lawyer said. But reps from the district attorney’s suggested he file a Freedom of Information Request to get the footage, he said.

Kremins said he submitted a request the day after Gonzalez closed the case, and has yet to receive any evidence. This newspaper submitted its own request on Jan. 17, and is also still waiting for a response.

And the attorney said that the information law enforcement did share with him doesn’t quite add up.

Police only interviewed the driver by phone 17 hours after the fatal crash, and did not test his blood for alcohol or drugs, he said.

And Kremins said the district attorney’s reps told him the video clip from moments before the collision shows the driver’s colleague riding on the back of the truck, allegedly above the same tires that hit Ramirez, but that footage from after the incident shows the co-worker inside the vehicle.

“A block before this stop occurred there’s video that shows the helper on the back of the truck, on the same side where the wheels of the truck supposedly hit him,” he said. “The next video they have, about a minute after the impact, the helper is now sitting in the front seat next to the driver. We find that troublesome.”

But authorities said an eyewitness told them that the motorist’s colleague was in the vehicle at the time of the crash.

Ramirez’s death likely was not a calculated murder, but someone still should be held accountable, Kremins said.

“No one is claiming that they intentionally went out to run over a biker and kill him — but you really have to use due care,” he said. “If this is the first time that it occurred or the first time the company was involved, then okay, maybe things like this happen. But when it happens over and over and over again, then you start thinking something’s not right. Something smells.”

Reach reporter Julianne Cuba at (718) 260–4577 or by e-mail at jcuba@cnglocal.com. Follow her on Twitter @julcuba.

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